Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Finish the Race In Giving!

The Kentucky Derby Festival is in full swing here in Louisville, Kentucky, culminating on Saturday, May 7th in the crème de la crème of horse races, the 142nd "Run for the Roses," the fastest two minutes in sports. Horse racing enthusiasts, celebrities, and guests from all over the world will be opening their wallets and checkbooks for all sorts of reasons, from philanthropy to the frivolous. You can bet on that.  You can tell what a person loves or values by taking a good look at their checkbook. Hopefully, more checks will be written to underwrite West Louisville ministries supporting the least of these.   As the saying goes, where your heart is, your treasure is also. 
In 2 Corinthians 8, the apostle Paul took a look at the  contribution statements of the Corinthian church, and he was none too happy.   Paul admonished the churches to show proof of their love by finishing what they started in their giving the previous year (v10a).  He put the Corinthian churches on notice, comparing their giving with that of the Macedonian churches, "They are being tested by many troubles, and they are very poor.  But they are also filled with abundant joy, which has overflowed in rich generosity" (v2). 
The Corinthians had gotten off to a great start the previous year and they led all the other churches.  Apparently, something happened over the months, and though their gifts excelled in other areas of ministry, their financial gifts had fallen behind (v7).  Paul stated, "Since you excel in so many ways--in your faith, your gifted speakers, your knowledge, your enthusiasm, and your love from us--I want you to excel also in this gracious act of giving." Paul reminded the church that the previous year they were the first to want to give, and the first church to begin giving (v10b).  He wanted them to get back in the race and finish the race in giving.

Here are two important statements from chapters 8 & 9 that can help us finish the race in our giving:   We should remember to...
  1. Give in proportion to what you have.  In fact, Paul says this twice in verses 11 and 12.  Then in verse 12, he adds "give in proportion to what you have, not what you don't have."  This is such a liberating statement.  Don't let anyone make you feel guilty if you can't give $500, $1,000, $10,000 or some gigantic amount you don't have.
  2.  Give eagerly.  He says, "Whatever you give is acceptable if you give it eagerly (v12a)."   Acceptable gifts are contributions given in the right spirit. We should not fall into the trap of "giving to get," out of peer pressure.  We should give because God has so graciously and generously given to us.  We should give hilariously, joyfully - not out of mere duty or guilt (2 Corinthians 9:7-15).  
At the race track the focus and priority is on winning and receiving. Everyone thinks they have the winning horse. However, many will walk away without the money they came with and without the winning ticket. It is just the opposite in the Kingdom of God where the focus in on giving.  As Jesus said, "It is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35).
If you have made a financial promise, or commitment, to your church, a ministry or charity, keep it. Our inner city communities are desperately in need of your thoughtful financial donations, and there are some great institutions trying to meet the need. We are blessed to be a blessing.  Be a good steward of your resources, your time, talent, and treasures.  Keep the faith, and finish what you have started.  Finish the race in giving!  Jesus saves!


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